Prisons as welfare institutions?

Punishment and the Nordic model

Authored by: Thomas Ugelvik

Handbook on Prisons

Print publication date:  February  2016
Online publication date:  February  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415745659
eBook ISBN: 9781315797779
Adobe ISBN:


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In the field of comparative penology, the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – are frequently used as an exception to the general rule. As the story goes, these societies are somehow able to resist a current global move towards growing rates of imprisonment and tougher crime control policies. Nordic prisons are seen as beacons of humanity and decency in a world of ever-increasing penal populism. In a much-discussed two-part article, John Pratt (2008a, 2008b) described the Nordic societies as exhibiting a specifically Nordic penal culture, resulting in what he called Scandinavian or Nordic exceptionalism in the penal area; 2 the exceptional qualities, according to Pratt, being consistently low rates of imprisonment and comparatively humane prison conditions.

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